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The indicators of change have been all around us for nearly 10 years and the past 3 years have been especially intense and significant for every CEO and board member that owns a certification enterprise, accreditation agency or other new form of the credentialing industry. In our consulting, writing and confidential conversations over dinner with the most brilliant and alert leaders in the credentialing movements, we have leaned into the future, peeked over the horizon and identified the game changers. Many will appear on your doorstep or invade your budget in 2018.   That’s right. This year is that “future state” and that “some day” we talked about last year.

We are talking about big changes not incremental shifts. In this blog and for first weeks of 2018, we’ll unfold the story of these changes and the impact many will feel. This is a future we want to make real for you.

Most of these changes will present new opportunities in one or both of the drivers for credentialing businesses: 1) Leadership and/or 2) Communications.

Here’s what people in credentialing businesses are talking about. Let’s start with a list of changes and the opportunities or impacts you will come to know directly and on a first-name basis in 2018. We can modify and add to this list as we hear from you and learn more about changes that affect you, scare you or present new opportunities.

Big changes will have these characteristics and drivers. We can break this down for you in the next three months in bite-size blogs and go deeper into the context of what this means for your credentials and programs.

#1–The value of your credential to your customer’s customers. We’ve moved from years of conversations about workforce initiatives and vague notions about how any employer or end user actually knows what they are getting in your credential. The conversation shifted to more organized, more measurable in 2014 with WorkCred, then, in December (last month) the Credential Engine launched and it will absolutely reward those with leadership and communication skills.

#2–The clarity and strength of your brand promise across all communications. No longer can you get away with a declaration of being “the gold standard” for your profession or industry. Now there are specific, measurable strategies and methods that will blow that smoke away and make winners of those who know how to secure a position as a premium brand. This is hard evidence work and those at risk are the ones who have not learned the difference between a brand strategy and a logo. They may well end up in the acquisitions pile.

#3–Total customer experiences and satisfaction across an integrated system. The multi-billion corporations did this first, such as Amazon and American Express, so this is not new. It’s a game changer—a dramatic shift from the way credential operations have looked at their own processes combined with entirely new technology partners that have never appeared in the vendor pools of various credentialing industry or association industry events. Fresh, different thinking for three years and involvement of certification CEOs in investor roles created the system that covers only credentialing business functions and fits within the revenue and cost patterns we’ve observed in hundreds of annual budgets which the business lives by. Don’t look for demos because that’s the whole point—the system was created from within the business instead of by technologists who have never funded and owned a certification enterprise.

#4–Expertise and competencies as the new currency and drivers of credentialing businesses. This cuts across all business models and applies to all sizes of programs. This totally changes old habits and old notions of how to attract people to your credential, how to drive revenue, how to fill events, how to go to capacity with on-line learning and on-line certification processes. No longer is the conversation about members people who are buying your certification stuff or not. The best certifications will stem from expertise and deep understanding of the life of a credential, from the very beginnings (maybe in grade school) to the end (retirement, death or change careers).   This even changes the conversation about subject-matter experts and how you identify them, then attract, engage and retain the best of the best.

Everything sorts out to a leadership issue or a communication issue. It could be both. That’s why the solution comes in the form of leadership strategies or communications strategies. Go ahead, give it a try. Name the one thing that seems like a highest priority for you. Suppose you said ‘Getting my program accredited.” That’s a leadership issue because you want something that validates you did things right. It doesn’t bring another nickel into your organization unless you couple that issue with a communications strategy. Want to try one more? Suppose you said “We have a great program and it’s not growing like we projected in our budget.” That’s a double whammy leadership + communications issue.

It’s a fascinating time and we need you in these conversations.  Go here to sign up for updates and invitations to conversations. Everything is permission based and high trust. Also, this is not for everyone. We use a “Harry Potter sorting hat” kind of system when you show up to determine where your stories and experiences will bring the most value to the conversation circles we form.